The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has taken over prosecution and is upgrading charges against six people who allegedly threatened to infect local police officers with COVID-19, including a woman who lives in Kearny, AG Gurbir Grewal announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Last week, I said the time for warnings is over and those violating the COVID-19 emergency orders will face strong law enforcement action,” Grewal said in a statement.
“Police all across New Jersey are making good on that vow by charging violators with crimes … We take all assaults on police officers seriously, but it is especially heinous for someone to spit or cough at an officer in an attempt to infect or threaten to infect them with COVID-19.”
The six alleged incidents occurred in Perth Amboy, New Providence, River Edge, Flemington, Belleville, and Dunellan – with the Kearny woman being arrested in Belleville.
Vanessa Shaaraway, 35 of Kearny, is charged with terroristic threats during a state of emergency, a second-degree offense, aggravated assault on an officer, a fourth-degree offense, two counts of throwing bodily fluid at an officer a third-degree offense, resisting arrest, a third-degree offense, obstruction and shoplifting – both fourth-degree offenses.
On March 27th, Belleville Police responded to a report of a shoplifter and encountered Shaaraway, who allegedly fled and refused commands to stop.
When she was caught by two officers, she purposefully coughed on them and claimed that she was infected with COVID-19.
“For a defendant to intentionally expose an officer to COVID-19 is not just an assault on that officer, it’s an assault on their family members, fellow officers, and the general public. Anyone who uses the virus as a weapon against an officer will face a swift law enforcement response,” added New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick Callahan.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Additionally, fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.